Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Sacred Broom (Já), Bracelet (Cachá) and Necklace (Ileke/Elequi) Ensemble for the Afro-Cuban God San Lázaro/Babalú Ayé

Catalog Number: B120


Necklace: 17.63" x .43" x .23"
448 mm x 10.85 mm x 5.93 mmBracelet: 7.35" x .88" x .47"
186.68 mm x 22.44 mm x 11.93 mm

Religion and Denomination: Ocha (Cuba, Yoruba)
Transatlantic Family of Religion: Orisha
Ethnographic Origin: Caribbean
Materials: Glass
Date of Manufacture: 12/2020
Usage: Ritual (used)
Detailed Description of Significance:

Catalogued by Annabelle Yang:

This is a sacred broom, or já, for Babalú Ayé, also known as San Lázaro. His famous avatars, or “roads” (caminos), include Dasoyi, Afimalle and Asojano. Babalú Ayé is honored in Cuba–especially in the city of Matanzas, by practitioners of Lucumí religion, which is also known as Santería and Regla de Ocha, as an oricha of healing and miracles. Stories say that Babalú Ayé was once exiled from his kingdom, and suffered the ravages of smallpox. In this way, he is quite akin to the Catholic San Lázaro, with whom he is also identified – San Lázaro the beggar had his sores licked by dogs, and Babalú Ayé wandered destitute and diseased. Still other stories explain that Babalú Ayé was a mighty king, who conquered others using poison and disease. His warlike advance was halted by the cooling supplications of one kingdom, who offered him their praises and popped corn. Thus, followers of Babalú Ayé turn to him for healing – he, who has suffered, can be appealed to in one’s own time of suffering.


The já of Babalú Ayé, plays a crucial role in healing rituals. Made from dried palm ribs, this broom has a handle adorned with glass beads in ochre red, black, and white with blue stripes, as well as multi-faceted black plastic beads – that is, in Babalú Ayé’s iconic colors and patterns – and further decorated with cowries. In ritual usage of such a já, medicine would be stored in its handle, to confer additional healing power upon it. The broom itself is a dry, even pestilential object. Indeed, Babalú Ayé’s ceremonies forbid the use of water because water was once thrown in his wake to ward away disease. But in healing with the consecrated broom, it is transformed, and used to sweep illness away – it can be used by priests of Babalú Ayé to brush and tap across the length of a person’s body. And beyond physical disease, the já of Babalú Ayé offers purification: in his initiation ceremonies, participants are brushed with a chicken, eggs, and the já as part of their cleansing.


The accompanying necklace and bracelet, similarly, are also adorned in beads of ochre-red, blue-and-white stripes, and black, as well as cowries. Such beaded necklaces, or ileke/ilequis might be received by supplicants for health. The cachá, or bracelet, is another important identifier of priests of Babalú Ayé: though Babalú Ayé was a king, he also suffered exile and grief. For this reason, practitioners will wear clothes of humble burlap. Additionally, burlap recalls the rough skin texture of the god and of his victims. Even when devotees don’t wear burlap clothing, the cachá marks them as devotees of Babalú Ayé, also known as San Lázaro and as Afimalle. The outside of this cachá is adorned with burlap, beads and cowry shells. The inner lining in touch with the wearer’s wrist is of suede, perhaps from the skin of a sacrificial goat.